Third OSP lab under investigation

Forensic division reviewing samples from former analyst

By Kailey Fisicaro / The Bulletin / @kaileyfisicaro

A former forensic analyst with the state police crime lab in Clackamas was underreporting some urine tests, according to the state police forensic division, making for the latest discrepancy in a series of problems at OSP crime labs.

The analyst, Kristopher Kyes, missed drugs or other substances in urine he tested at the Clackamas lab. This is the third lab in recent months to have problems with evidence . Another forensic analyst, Nika Larsen, is suspected of mishandling evidence; she worked at the Bend and Pendleton labs, which have now suspended drug testing while an investigation is underway.

The discovery at the Clackamas lab was made after Kyes left the division in January. Scientists at the lab reanalyzed some of the cases Kyes had reviewed because of pending trials in which they could be subpoenaed in his place. Analysts found some compounds, which could be drugs or other substances, in the sample were not shown in the report, but they did not find that Kyes was reporting compounds not present.

Now, the division is re-evaluating Kyes’ work to see what other cases may have been affected.

Kyes started working for the forensic division in February 2007. He had reviewed cases in every Oregon county but Curry, according to Oregon State Police.

So far the division has reexamined 120 cases related to Kyes, 10 of which showed potentially unreported compounds, where a drug or other substance was not noted in a report.

The head of OSP’s forensic services division, Capt. Ted Phillips, sent a letter to all Oregon district attorneys late last week. Phillips wrote that district attorney offices associated with those 10 cases were contacted.

In some cases, an unreported compound was “simply missed” altogether, Phillips wrote, while other times only part of the compound was reported.

Phillips wrote that in consulting Clackamas County Chief Deputy District Attorney Greg Horner and Senior Deputy District Attorney Chris Owen, as well as Oregon Department of Justice Special Agent Mike Bethers, the division found that Kyes’ conduct was not “criminal in nature, nor is there an indication of bias or prejudice.”

Wednesday, Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said he was told Kyes had missed drugs in two samples from Deschutes County, but because the charges were for drug possession, it didn’t affect the cases.

“No one’s perfect, and everyone makes mistakes,” Hummel said, adding if Kyes was still at the lab it would be “more of an HR matter.”

In September, an OSP forensic analyst was put on paid administrative leave on suspicion of tampering with drug samples. Larsen worked at the Bend state police crime lab and previously the state’s Pendleton crime lab.

Hummel wants to set aside at least seven criminal convictions in cases where Larsen reviewed evidence. In most of those cases, the alleged crime was drug possession. Hummel’s office has gone over about half of the nearly 300 closed criminal cases in Deschutes County where Larsen reviewed the evidence. Hummel expects that process will continue over the next few months.

“We’re cranking it out,” he said. “I think we’ll be done by June; that would be a rough estimate.”

Crook County DA Daina Vitolins could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Jefferson County DA Steven Leriche said he was made aware of the underreporting last week but hasn’t heard that any Jefferson County samples were affected.

“Not that we’ve heard back so far,” Leriche said. “All I have from them is that there’s an issue.”

Leriche said samples from Jefferson County are usually submitted to the Bend lab.

“If they’re really busy, they will ship it to a lab that has more resources to deal with it,” Leriche said, explaining how a Jefferson County sample might end up at the Clackamas lab.

Leriche said he usually just looks at the results, rarely the analyst, unless a case goes to trial.

“If a case goes to trial, then all of a sudden the analyst is a witness, and you start caring,” he said.

OSP’s forensic division is still reviewing cases where Kyes issued a report. Investigators will first focus on cases where a trial is approaching, then open cases and finally closed cases.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325, kfisicaro@bendbulletin.com

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